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Michael Cimino

  • Birthplace: New York City, New York
  • Birthday: February 03
Date of passing: 
July 02, 2016

Obituary

Obituary: 

Michael Cimino was a writer and director whose career was marked by memorable highs — the 1978 Vietnam War drama The Deer Hunter, for which he won an Oscar — and lows — the 1980 western drama Heaven's Gate, one of the most notorious failures in Hollywood history.

Michael Cimino was a writer and director whose career was marked by memorable highs — the 1978 Vietnam War drama The Deer Hunter, for which he won an Oscar — and lows — the 1980 western drama Heaven's Gate, one of the most notorious failures in Hollywood history.

Born in New York City, Cimino grew up on Long Island and studied at Michigan State University and Yale University. He began his career in the advertising business and directed several commercials for clients that included United Airlines, Pepsi, Eastman Kodak, Kool cigarettes and L'Eggs pantyhose.

He relocated from New York to Los Angeles to pursue film work, and began writing screenplays. While contributing to the 1973 release Magnum Force he met Clint Eastwood, who starred in the film as San Francisco cop Harry Callahan. The two men hit it off, and the following year Cimino wrote and directed Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, starring Eastwood and Jeff Bridges, the latter of whom earned an Oscar nomination for his performance.

Cimino achieved his greatest success with The Deer Hunter, the ambitious saga of a group of friends from Pennsylvania who are shattered by their experiences during the Vietnam War. The film, with a cast that included Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep, John Cazale and John Savage, was nominated for nine Oscars. It won five — including best picture, best director for Cimino and best supporting actor for Walken.

Two years later came the debacle of Heaven's Gate, a violent drama about tensions between several rival factions in 1890s Wyoming, with a cast that included Bridges, Walken, Kris Kristofferson and John Hurt. The production vastly exceeded its budget, reportedly ballooning from $12 million to $40 million, with most of the overruns attributed to Cimino's uncompromising style. Released at a length in excess of three-and-a-half hours, Heaven's Gate was a flop both financially and critically. The film devastated its studio, United Artists, and became the subject of the book Final Cut: Dreams and Disaster in the Making of Heaven's Gate, the Film That Sank United Artists, a memoir by former UA executive Steven Bach.

In the years that followed Cimino directed the films The Year of the Dragon, The Sicilian, Desperate Hours and The Sunchaser, but he was unable to regain the stature he had enjoyed prior to Heaven's Gate

Cimino died on July 2, 2016, in Los Angeles. He was 77.

 

 

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